Friday 18 October 2019

Neeson says he is not a racist and apologises for remarks

Actor was driven by a "primal urge" to lash out after attack

Liam Neeson. Photo: PA
Liam Neeson. Photo: PA
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

Hollywood actor Liam Neeson has apologised for remarks that he had violent thoughts about killing a black person after a friend was raped and insisted he is not a racist.

The star appeared on US talk show 'Good Morning America' yesterday to explain his position, after an interview in the London 'Independent' embroiled him in a race row.

He had said in the interview he had walked the streets armed with a "cosh", hoping some "black b*****d" would come out of a pub and have a go at him "so that I could kill him". He added he was now "ashamed".

Appearing on TV yesterday Neeson said he had never had that feeling before, which was a "primal urge to lash out".

He added: "After that there were some nights I went out deliberately into black areas in the city, looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence.

"I did it four, maybe four or five times, until I caught myself and it really shocked me, this primal urge. It was shocking. It shocked me and it hurt me... I did seek help, I went to a priest."

Neeson said he had grown up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, where he witnessed revenge on a regular basis.

"I'm not racist, this was nearly 40 years ago, but because I was brought up in the north of Ireland, I was brought up in the Troubles in the 60s, 70s and early 80s," he said. "There was a war going on in the north of Ireland and I had acquaintances who were involved in the Troubles.

"The bigotry, one Catholic would be killed, the next day a Protestant would be killed, one Catholic pub would be bombed and a Protestant pub would be bombed.

"I grew up surrounded by that. But I was never part of it."

Neeson said he would have had the same reaction if his friend, who has since died, had told him she was raped by a white man: "If she had said Irish or Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know it would have had the same effect.

"I was trying to show honour to and stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion."

Meanwhile, the Immigrant Council of Ireland tweeted yesterday that "while much is made of the revenge aspect, the appalling racism from a public figure must be called out, esp [especially] in era of #BlackLives Matter."

However, it remains unclear whether the controversy will impact on the Oscar-nominated actor's work in the longer term. He was appointed as a Unicef Goodwill ambassador in March 2011, and its website lists him as one of 10 representing Ireland.

The Irish Independent contacted Unicef in Dublin yesterday to seek a comment in relation to the controversy.

However, a spokesman subsequently said that the actor's association with Unicef is managed by the global head office in New York and advised that the query be directed there.

There was no response from the US office last night.

Irish Independent

Also in this section